Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Caribbean Wind: Unreleased Studio Recordings, 1980 - 1981

Caribbean Wind
Unreleased Studio Recordings
1980 - 1981

Mystery Train - Outtake, 1981
Heart Of Mine - Outtake, 1981
Caribbean Wind - Outtake, 1980
Wind Blowing On The Water - Outtake, 1981
Shot Of Love - Outtake, 1981
Watered-Down Love - Rough Mix, 1981
Hallelujah - Outtake, 1981
Let It Be Me - Outtake, 1981
Is It Worth It? - Outtake, 1981
Let's Keep It Between Us - Outtake, 1980
Magic - Outtake, 1981
Dead Man, Dead Man - Rough Mix, 1981
Ah Ah Ah Ah (High Away) - Outtake, 1981
In The Summertime - Rough Mix, 1981
Borrowed Time - Outtake, 1981

Mediafire Link

Welcome to a lovely and oft-overlooked corner of Bob Dylan's recording career - the sessions that led to 1981's Shot of Love. Shot of Love is a remarkably good record, whatever else you've heard, and was Dylan's last to sound like a bunch of people playing in the same room until Love & Theft in 2001. There was no sleek shine to this production, and consequently it breathed with the passion found in much of the man's best work. Unfortunately, many of the finest recordings from these sessions were not released on that album. In particular, "Yonder Comes Sin" and "Caribbean Wind" are absolutely essential, and "Heart of Mine" was recorded in a much better rendition than the one that appears on the official release.

Outside of these classics, more minor gems were recorded. No collection of Dylan outtakes would be complete without these covers of "Mystery Train" and "Let It Be Me." The fragmentary songs, including "Hallelujah" (not the Leonard Cohen song) and "Borrowed Time" make one wonder what could have been; "Is It Worth It" and "Ah Ah Ah Ah (High Away)" point to the reggae-influenced road ahead to Infidels, and contribute to the overall Caribbean sound of this era.

The other studio cuts are intriguing as well. "Let's Keep It Between Us" is a fairly recently unearthed prototype for a song that would become transcendent on the road in Fall, 1980; you can find a live recording of the song on Rise Again: Live, Fall 1980. The rough mixes of "Dead Man, Dead Man," "Watered-Down Love," and "In The Summertime" are all interesting, but "Watered-Down Love" stands above the others, retaining an extra verse not present on the official release but conspicuous in live performances from 1981. It's likely that, like the longer version of "Dead Man, Dead Man" that appears on 2017's Trouble No More, this extra verse was cut for time constraints on the 1981 Shot of Love LP. "In The Summertime," too, stands out for the inclusion of a mournful harmonica that extends the song by a full minute beyond its officially released version.

A handful of songs have been cut from this updated publication of an earlier Thousand Highways compilation. Of these, "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" was abandoned for its similarity to the officially released studio performance; the only difference was an extended conclusion in which the band eventually stops playing. Live recordings have also been omitted to improve the sense of cohesion. An extended two-disc collection representing the 1981 tours will cover this material.

I hope you enjoy this newest compilation, and include it in your collections alongside the inimitable Shot of Love and extraordinary Trouble No More. It was a blast to put together. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Rise Again: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 1980

Rise Again
Live: Fall 1980

Blowin' In The Wind - Live - San Francisco - November 13, 1980
A Couple More Years - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
What Can I Do For You? - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
Precious Angel - Live - San Francisco - November 12, 1980
Slow Train - Live - Seattle - November 29, 1980
We Just Disagree - Live - Portland - December 4, 1980
Fever - Live - Seattle - November 30, 1980
To Ramona - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1980
Senor - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
Mary From The Wild Moor - Live - San Francisco - November 15, 1980
Let's Keep It Between Us - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
Monologue: The Same Man - Live - San Francisco - November 12
Rise Again - Live - Seattle - November 29
The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1980
Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody - Live - Seattle - November 29
In The Garden - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
City Of Gold - Live - San Francisco - November 13, 1980

Intro & False Start to Slow Train - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
Intro to Fever - Live - San Francisco - November 22

After touring with an all-gospel revue in 1979 and early 1980, Bob Dylan made the surprising decision to reintegrate some of his classic songs with his newer bible-influenced repertoire while touring the US West Coast. At the same time, he pulled in a number of cover songs ranging from traditional Scottish ballads ("Mary From The Wild Moor") to recent radio hits (Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree") and contemporary Christian songs (Dallas Holm's "Rise Again").

It is not clear what moved Dylan to alter his earlier goal of playing explicitly religious material to fans night after night, regardless of the reception. As he and his band rehearsed in Los Angeles' Rundown Studio during September 1980, the change was apparent. The earliest focus from the rehearsal sessions was on newly written content, including "Caribbean Wind," "Every Grain of Sand" and "Yonder Comes Sin." Then after tossing off a handful of attempts at songs played on previous tours, Dylan then led his crew into numerous country and pop covers. Several of these would work their way into the following shows, but most remain unheard. One rare gem unearthed from these sessions by 2017's excellent Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More is an acoustic rendition of "Rise Again"; it's fascinating to hear just how much the song had changed between the studio and the stage in November.

For an extended residency at San Francisco's Warfield Theater from November 9 to November 22, Bob Dylan would pull out all the stops on his setlist. It varied little from night to night, but the breadth of material performed was enormous. Most shows opened with the same two songs that had introduced his concerts since the preceding year - "Gotta Serve Somebody" and "I Believe In You" (neither present on Rise Again) - before he launched into an electrified gospel arrangement of "Like A Rolling Stone." The latter is omitted from this set since it would be dramatically enhanced the following year.

With these introductory songs played, along with a nightly one-song performance by Regina McCrary, the setlist then began to open up to an intriguing combination of old and new material. "To Ramona" and "Girl From The North Country" appeared often, the former in a toned-down version of its 1978 arrangement and the latter in an all-new elegant semi-acoustic guise; Jerry Garcia, only one of numerous guests throughout the tour, plays guitar on the November 16 performance of "To Ramona" included on Rise Again. Though some of his recent gospel songs had lost a bit of their luster during the summer touring hiatus, tracks like "Slow Train" and "In The Garden" seemed to have somehow gained even more strength.

One of the most impressive elements of the Fall 1980 shows, though, was the emphasis on new compositions which, in many cases, failed to make it onto any albums. We know now that these were being worked up during the September 1980 studio sessions, perhaps in anticipation of a forthcoming album, but at the time they must have been quite surprising to audiences. "Let's Keep It Between Us," "Caribbean Wind," "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar," "City Of Gold" and a newly re-written "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody" are extraordinary compositions, and we are lucky to have so many of them performed and recorded in marvelous condition at these shows. Only "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" would make it onto 1981's Heart of Mine single as a b-side, and even that song had been heavily re-written between its November 1980 live appearance and the recording studio. Some of the others were recorded in the studio to less success, like "Let's Keep It Between Us" and "Caribbean Wind," or seem not to have ever been attempted in a studio session, like "City Of Gold." Whatever the case, they are excellent concert performance pieces and I'm sure you'll enjoy them here.

While "Caribbean Wind" has been omitted from Rise Again due to an official release on The Bootleg Series Volume 13, I felt compelled to include its introduction. No direct mention is made of the song, and a problem with the soundboard recording kept it from being published on said official release. It's an illuminating meditation on Dylan's own philosophy regarding his mercurial performance philosophy, as he muses about Leadbelly recording prison songs, then children's songs, all while remaining the same man; Leadbelly's audiences, of course, had been polarized about which version of him they preferred. This discomfort with audience expectations would go on to be explored more bitterly during the following year's European tour, as Dylan would openly speculate from the stage that audiences should enjoy the new songs now since, if he came back, he'd eventually just be playing the old hits that everyone wanted to hear.

I've also included a lengthy introduction to Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell's "Fever," which had been a hit in the '50s when recorded by Little Willie John and then Peggy Lee. Though the timeline doesn't quite sync up, Bob Dylan recalls his first time coming face to face with R&B in a Detroit bingo parlor as a young man. Having formerly listened primarily to country music, this seems to have been a formative experience in pushing the young Minnesotan out of his element and into a relationship with other musical genres. This is one of my favorite on-stage speeches by the singer, so I'm happy to include it alongside the great songs on Rise Again.

Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Slight Delay: Rise Again - Live, Fall 1980

Happy Easter/Passover/April Fool's Day, folks!

The blog post today will be going up a day late. It's more or less done, but I need to touch up the art and notes. You'll have it on April 2, 2018. Enjoy your weekend, friends :)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Things That Remain: Unreleased Live Recordings, Early 1980

The Things That Remain
Live: Early 1980

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Los Angeles - February 27, 1980
Covenant Woman - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Knoxville - February 5, 1980
Monologue: Ronnie Hawkins As Bob Dylan - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Cover Down, Pray Through - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Saving Grace - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others) - Live - Knoxville - February 5, 1980
Monologue: The End Times - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Solid Rock - Live - Portland - January 16, 1980 *
What Can I Do For You - Live - Portland - January 16, 1980
Saved - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Pressing On - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
Are You Ready? - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
I Will Sing - Live - Akron - May 18, 1980

* Introduction from April 20, 1980

Link: Mediafire

After the shock of 1979's radical reinvention, Bob Dylan fans could be forgiven for imagining he'd return to a more typical setlist when playing concerts in 1980. Unfortunately for the folks who hoped he'd get back to secular material ASAP, he continued to play the same gospel songs, more or less, that he'd taken on the road the preceding Autumn.

There were some changes. Personnel in the band shifted, as he added Regina Peeples to his backing vocal roster, then brought in Gwen Evans and Mary Elizabeth Bridges. The setlist for January to February remained similar to the year before, but the April and May shows included "Are You Ready?" from Saved, along with a few songs never played in a studio - "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody," "Cover Down, Pray Through," and "I Will Sing." The last was a song by Max Dyer, who had developed the song in a largely improvisational live setting and was surprised to hear (twenty years later) that Bob Dylan had covered it at an Ohio show in 1980; "I Will Sing" is also notable for having been the only song played at a concert between 1979 and May 1980 that was not included on The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More.

With regard to the nuances of the performances themselves, Dylan's on-stage style in 1980 differed little from 1979. In my personal experience of the recordings, particularly in the Winter months, the bass and drums stand out more prominently than the keyboards. Spooner Oldham and Terry Young remain important players, but Tim Drummond and Jim Keltner are more clearly felt than they had been at the 1979 concerts. Certain songs here highlight that more than others - "Do Right To Me Baby," "Solid Rock" and "Are You Ready" are fantastic vehicles for Bob Dylan's rhythm section.

I find myself in a rare disagreement with noted author Paul Williams, in that I'm not convinced Dylan's early 1980 shows are in any way inferior to his 1979 concerts. Williams claims that there's a falling off of energy, but if that's true, the singer more than makes up for it in the genuinely experimental spirit with which he wove his vocal lines. Check out "Covenant Woman," "What Can I Do For You," or especially "Saving Grace" to discover what happens when Dylan wants to play around with a song without altering its arrangement. I do wish he'd continued playing more of these songs, as he discarded quite a few after the early 1980 shows - "Covenant Woman," "Are You Ready," "Pressing On," and "Cover Down, Pray Through" would never again resurface after May 1980; "Do Right To Me Baby" would be played once on that year's Musical Retrospective Tour, "When He Returns" would appear once in a surprising and unsuccessful full-band arrangement in 1981, and "Saving Grace" wouldn't appear again until the new millennium. Happily, "Gotta Serve Somebody," "Solid Rock," "When You Gonna Wake Up" and "What Can I Do For You" still had some developing to do throughout 1980 and 1981.

The concerts themselves were extraordinary, as was Bob Dylan's appearance at the 1980 Grammy Awards. He played "Gotta Serve Somebody," and even managed to add some new lyrics and a smoky harmonica solo. His raps continued in 1980, though they were comparatively limited according to the extant tapes. We are lucky to have a record of his comments at a Toronto concert in April 1980, and these makes up the bulk of his prose commentary here. This, surprisingly, includes something of a reflection on his notoriously poor reception by a college crowd in Arizona during the preceding year's tour. Dylan weaves that experience together with his expectation of a forthcoming apocalypse, but manages to make the entire story compelling through his uniquely engaging stage voice. Additionally, he ruminates humorously upon Ronnie Hawkins role as Bob Dylan in the poorly received film Renaldo & Clara; it really makes you wish he spoke a bit more often, eh?

There's not much else to say - early 1980 presented something of an expansion and refinement of Bob Dylan's 1979 shows. Audiences were treated to new songs, though no radical reinventions of his gospel tracks. A cover managed to work its way into the set, briefly, but was then dropped again. It seems that this particular style of performance had run its course; by Fall 1980, the singer would be incorporating secular covers and older compositions with his post-1978 catalog in concert.

I hope you enjoy this set! Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Pressing On: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1979

Pressing On
Live 1979

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
I Believe In You - Live - San Francisco - November 7, 1979
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979 *
When He Returns - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Slow Train - Live - San Francisco - November 7, 1979 **
Covenant Woman - Live - Santa Monica - November 19, 1979
Sermon: End Times - Live - Albuquerque - December 5, 1979
Solid Rock - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Saving Grace - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Precious Angel - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Sermon: Every Knee Shall Bow - Live - Tempe - November 26, 1979
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
What Can I Do For You - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Blessed Is The Name - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Pressing On - Live - San Francisco - November 4, 1979

* Introduction: Santa Monica - November 19, 1979
** Introduction: San Francisco - November 16, 1979

In November 2017, Sony finally published a significant portion of Bob Dylan's unreleased live and studio performances spanning 1979 to 1981 as The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More. This period had gone almost entirely untouched by Dylan's record company outside of the contemporary studio albums (Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love) and a handful of live tracks recorded at 1981's noteworthy New Orleans concert - "Heart of Mine" on 1985's Biograph and "Dead Man, Dead Man" on 1989's "Everything Is Broken" single. 

While the new Bootleg Series addition is a welcome addition to any collection (and perhaps my favorite Bootleg Series entry so far), there is always another side to the story. In the case of 1979, the other side is perhaps less important than usual; Dylan didn't significantly alter arrangements or setlists on his first Gospel Tour, so the average fan would likely be perfectly happy listening to the excellent versions chosen and presented in exquisite sound quality for the official compilation. The more enthusiastic fan of Bob Dylan's gospel period, though, might be interested in hearing alternate versions of songs.

More importantly, the official CD set entirely omitted the between-song commentary offered by the singer at these concerts. 1979 and 1980 were genuine rarities in Dylan's career, as the typically reserved performer opened his heart up to audiences. He spoke at times in clearly rehearsed phrases and at other times spontaneously. He had recently converted to Christianity and felt a sense of responsibility to preach the gospel using the two methods most readily available to him - his albums and his concerts. Given the outsized role of Dylan's preaching at shows and its absence from the official Bootleg Series entry, I emphasized it on Pressing On: Live 1979.

Two songs here have extended introductions, while two more lengthy sermons have been isolated as discrete tracks. Many, myself included, find the omission of between-song prose on Trouble No More to be a bit more conducive to repeat listens, so I wanted listeners to have the same option on this unofficial compilation. The first of the two sermons, which I've arbitrarily titled "End Times," is a lengthier explication of the apocalyptic biblical reading that informs songs like "Slow Train Coming" and "Are You Ready?" The second sermon represents the most confrontational moment in the singer's career since feuding with his audience on-stage in Britain on the 1966 tour; he is heckled relentlessly while telling a story about 'false deceivers' and has the lights turned on in the hall, telling his hecklers to go see a KISS concert and 'rock and roll down to the pit' if they don't care for his message.

With regard to the music, there will be few surprises here for those who own Trouble No More. The arrangements and performances are more or less the same, though the sound quality is appreciably worse on these recordings. That said, a handful of tracks benefit from the reduced instrument separation: "Gotta Serve Somebody" is more full here than on Disc One of Trouble No More, "Covenant Woman" is more compressed so the song's first verse isn't unreasonably quiet, the blown bass of "Slow Train" hammers home the sense of smoke and brimstone, and the organ on "Precious Angel" offers a warmth that can be lacking on crisper recordings of the song's 1979 arrangement.

All of this being said, the most significant musical inclusion on this compilation is "Pressing On." When played on November 4, 1979, the song featured an additional third verse that was rapidly dropped and (seemingly) never even made it to the studio when the song was recorded at Muscle Shoals in 1980. The rare verse doubles down on the second verse's references to an internal battle with Satan, so perhaps it was dropped for de-emphasizing the song's broader, more inspirational message. It's hard to say, but I'm glad that the song was recorded in a reasonably clear manner before the verse disappeared permanently.

The next installment in The Thousand Highways Collection will document Bob Dylan's tours of early 1980, including unreleased tracks from the much-beloved Toronto residency. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS

Monday, January 1, 2018

Once Upon A Time: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2017

Once Upon A Time: Live 2017
Volume One

Things Have Changed - Live - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
It Ain't Me BabeLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Highway 61 RevisitedLive - Syracuse - June 25, 2017
Why Try To Change Me NowLive - New York - November 24, 2017
Summer DaysLive - New York - November 24, 2017
Melancholy MoodLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Honest With MeLive - Uniondale - November 8, 2017
Tryin' To Get To HeavenLive - Uniondale - November 8, 2017
Once Upon A TimeLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Pay In BloodLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Tangled Up In BlueLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Soon After MidnightLive - New York - November 24, 2017
Early Roman KingsLive - Saskatoon - July 14, 2017
Desolation RowLive - Winnipeg - July 12, 2017
Thunder On The MountainLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Autumn LeavesLive - Upper Darby - November 12, 2017

Once Upon A Time: Live 2017
Volume Two

Things Have Changed - Live - Syracuse - June 25, 2017
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right - Live - Esch-sur-Alzette - April 22, 2017
Beyond Here Lies Nothing - Live - Esch-sur-Alzette - April 22, 2017
Standing In The Doorway - Live - Stockholm - April 1, 2017
Lonesome Day Blues - Live - Dover - June 17, 2017
Make You Feel My Love - Live - Saskatoon - July 14, 2017
Blind Willie McTell - Live - Dover - June 17, 2017
Full Moon & Empty Arms - Live - New York - November 22, 2017
It's All Over Now Baby Blue - Live - Dover - June 17, 2017
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Bournemouth - May 4, 2017
Stormy Weather - Live - Calgary - July 16, 2017
Scarlet Town - Live - Buffalo - November 18, 2017
Early Roman Kings - Live - Upper Darby - November 12, 2017
Love Sick - Live - Bournemouth - May 4, 2017
Learning To Fly - Live - Broomfield - October 21, 2017

2017 was a good year for Bob Dylan's live performances. He managed to play intimate club shows and fun festival sets throughout the year in North America and Europe, developing his setlist significantly from the more static days of the last few years. There were some negative consequences, as the performances are perhaps not quite so tight as they were in 2014 or 2015, but the change overall was one that made a more exciting experience for fans in person and following along at home.

Happily, the tapers also came through in much more challenging conditions than have been faced in recent memory. Terrorism at concert venues has become a sadly common headline, and security has been tightened accordingly; smuggling in recording gear is harder than it used to be, of course. A number of dedicated individuals persevered, though, and we've been graced with extraordinary recordings from Spot, Soomlos, JF, Big Daddy Buffalo, EBR, beer and Imperfect Gravy, among others.*

I have compiled the most consistently strong tracks onto Volume One. This tracklist is less exciting than Volume Two, perhaps, but is the more compelling listening experience. Alex Leary's Washington, DC tape is my favorite combination of performance and recording quality, and is well-represented here. Listeners will notice that the bulk of content on this first volume comes from the Fall Tour of North America - this is because Bob Dylan played and sang in a more adventurous fashion on the final tour of the year, altering a number of arrangements quite significantly.

In particular, the arrangements for "Things Have Changed," "Summer Days," "Honest With Me," Tryin' To Get To Heaven," "Tangled Up In Blue," and "Thunder On The Mountain" have been dramatically altered. The changes to "Things Have Changed" and "Summer Days" occurred earlier in the year, but the others were largely altered by the Autumn concerts. "Honest With Me" and "Thunder On The Mountain" were the most significant of the alterations, as both unexpectedly became infused with a kind of surf rock aesthetic; "Summer Days" was only marginally less altered, becoming a violin-oriented up-tempo folk song more akin to "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" than its former swing sound.

One major change to Bob Dylan's own on-stage work in 2017 was his move to piano for virtually all non-cover performances. While he had been singing many songs center-stage without accompanying himself instrumentally for much of 2013 to 2016, he had moved back to playing piano on "Things Have Changed," "Pay In Blood," "Love Sick," and others. The cover songs were still performed almost exclusively without piano accompaniment.

With regard to Volume Two, the recordings vary much more in quality and ambiance. Crystal Cat turned in a few of the year's more interesting tapes, but their work on delivering clarity came at the consequence of a warmer room sound. Interesting rare performances like "Standing in The Doorway" and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" are unfortunately a bit thin. The performances are still excellent, though, and I can't imagine its anything that couldn't be overlooked by dedicated fans.

Three of the songs on Volume Two also appear on Volume One, but this is no error or the result of a lack of song diversity. In fact, the three songs are curiosities that should not be missed. "Things Have Changed" is played with a much more intense, dark country flair here. "Tangled Up In Blue" is an intriguing arrangement that exists halfway between the way it had been played from 2013 to 2016 and the new, more easygoing treatment it would receive at 2017's Fall shows. "Early Roman Kings," finally, is representative of the way that the song was played throughout the Autumn Tour - softer in tone than the pounding electric blues of early 2017 but with brief, jazzy instrumental interludes between verses; it also features some new lyrics.

Some other interesting rearrangements are present on Volume Two as well. "Love Sick" is performed in a soft, moody style that recalls its sound on 1997's Time Out of Mind. "Scarlet Town," one of my favorite songs from 2012's Tempest, has been rearranged to a slightly more dramatic, mid-tempo ballad; it happily retains its minor-key menace. "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" is perhaps not a major alteration, but it does sound strangely like the composer combined its lyrics with the more rollicking music of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." "Blind Willie McTell" is quite similar to the way it was played at the 2012 Critics Choice Awards, though the piano's prominence lends it a sound even more reminiscent of New Orleans in the early Twentieth Century.

Finally, the second volume ends on a bittersweet note. Bob Dylan's old touring partner and friend, Tom Petty, died on October 2, 2017, and received an on-stage musical tribute at the end of Dylan's show in Broomfield, Colorado. This song had not ever been publicly played by Bob Dylan before, but his delivery and the band's performance is as tight as if they'd been playing it nightly. The only capture of this performance circulating as of December 31, 2017 was a lossy recording from a cell phone. Listeners ought not criticize the sound quality, though, as without the work of this taper we'd not have any document of the night at all; I'm making an exception to my typical lossless-sourced rule to present the moving performance, and I suspect listeners will agree with the decision.

With that, I hope you all enjoyed the year's Bob Dylan performances as much as I did. These are challenging times, and we are lucky to have a musician as talented as this to help us muddle through; similarly, we are eternally blessed that the tapers spend their time and hard-earned money getting these recordings out to the wider world. Until we meet again, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS

* Note: A comment from one of the tapers reminded me that some of the names were not pseudonyms and could create problems for accessing venues in the future. If you were one of the tapers whose name has been redacted for this purpose, let me know an appropriate pseudonym and I will add it back into the source list.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

DIY Playlist: Shot of Love - Expanded Edition

Hello folks,

With the release of Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Volume 13, 1979-1981, I've been working steadily to replace the Thousand Highways compilations that cover this time period. While you await those collections, I thought it might be nice to use the new Bootleg Series release to explore an album that could have been produced from the Shot of Love sessions.

These sessions ranged from Fall 1980 to Spring 1981, and resulted in the album that was eventually published: 1981's Shot of Love. Dozens of songs were recorded, though, and takes of individual songs differed radically depending on the personnel and whims of the artist. Recording the album over such a long period, and in so many different studios, permitted the development of songs lyrically and musically in a way that was unique for Bob Dylan albums, at least up until 1981.

By integrating unreleased songs and outtakes with some of the songs that made the final cut for the record, I think I've worked up a much more satisfying album than the one that was actually published on August 10, 1981. As an additional bonus, thanks to the incredible breadth of Trouble No More, I've created a second CD comprised of live songs written and performed during the same time period. These are at least as good as the studio takes, so I'm sure you'll enjoy them as well.

As ever, there is no download link here - you will need to purchase the songs individually (some are not included on Trouble No More, but can be bought elsewhere) and assemble yourself. If you would like to maintain a sense of cohesion, I encourage you to download Audacity audio editor to edit the songs, fading in and out on live tracks and normalizing the volume levels. That said, I listened to it without doing any editing and it still works as a great playlist!

Here you go:

Shot of Love: Expanded Edition

Disc One - Studio Recordings
Shot of Love (Shot of Love)
Heart of Mine (Shot of Love)
Property of Jesus (Shot of Love)
Making a Liar Out of Me (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Yonder Comes Sin (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Lenny Bruce (Shot of Love)
You Changed My Life (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
Watered-Down Love (Shot of Love)
Angelina (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (Shot of Love)
Caribbean Wind (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Dead Man, Dead Man (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
In The Summertime (Shot of Love)
Trouble (Shot of Love)
Every Grain of Sand (Shot of Love)

Disc Two - Live Recordings
Shot of Love (July 25, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Heart of Mine (November 10, 1981 - Side Tracks)
Thief on the Cross (November 10, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Lenny Bruce (June 27, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Watered Down Love (June 12, 1981 - Trouble No More)
The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (November 13, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody (December 2, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Dead Man, Dead Man (June 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
In The Summertime (October 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Caribbean Wind (November 12, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Every Grain of Sand (November 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
City of Gold (November 22, 1980 - Trouble No More)


Disc One

Shot of Love (Shot of Love)
The lead track on Bob Dylan's 1981 LP remains one of the songwriter's strongest opening tracks, so I didn't want to alter that for this playlist. Dylan described the song later in the '80s as his "most perfect song," describing where he was at "spiritually, musically, romantically, and whatever else." While other takes were recorded for the album, and are circulating either on bootlegs or the recent Trouble No More, the album cut remains the most perfect rendition as that lightning in a bottle was captured on tape by legendary producer Bumps Blackwell. It's something of a shame that he didn't get to produce the rest of the album, but one wonders how different it would have turned out.

Heart of Mine (Shot of Love)
"Heart of Mine" is described by Clinton Heylin in his recent book Trouble In Mind as filler, and I'm not sure I entirely disagree. It's a charming song, but has little lyrical content and struggles to work in any setting aside from Bob Dylan's Fall 1981 tour. Happily, the version published on "Shot of Love" is a pretty good song that works as a lighter second track after the heavy, dense opener. It also happens to feature Ringo Starr on percussion! Surprisingly, an even better version circulates on bootlegs but no outtakes were featured on Trouble No More; I suspect its largely secular preoccupations were not in keeping with the collection's theme.

Property of Jesus (Shot of Love)
This song is notable for being the only one from Shot of Love never performed at a concert (though it would take until 1989 for "Trouble" to be debuted). It's the most openly religious on the final album, and would likely have been something of a shock to listeners who thought that Dylan might have moved past the concerns which guided his previous two records. It's also a fierce, propulsive song and a great way to get amped up following the lighter "Heart of Mine." Interestingly, "Property of Jesus" was originally logged in the studio as "Heart of Stone," so if its title had remain unchanged, the album sequence would have proceeded from one "Heart" to another.

Making a Liar Out of Me (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
"Making a Liar Out of Me" was never bootlegged prior to its appearance on Trouble No More, and I doubt it ever would have made it onto the album sequence. In fact, it was part of a batch of songs written and recorded in 1980, long before the bulk of Shot of Love was recorded in Spring 1981. Still, its lyrical content bridges the gap between Saved and Shot of Love, and is quite reminiscent of the issues addressed in contemporary Dylan songs like "Caribbean Wind" and "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar." One wonders who the song might have been addressed to, as its takedown of the target reminds this listener of 'Positively 4th Street" and "Idiot Wind."

Yonder Comes Sin (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Another song from 1980, recorded only once at a rehearsal session ahead of Bob Dylan's Fall 1980 Musical Retrospective Tour, "Yonder Comes Sin" is another aggressive attack on some unknown individual. There were said to be more verses in the written song draft, but no tape of these remains extant; similarly, the choruses original had some alternative lyrics, but those are not preserved in the sole circulating recording. Note the backing track's similarity to the Rolling Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash!"

Lenny Bruce (Shot of Love)
This song is the least popular from the released album, but I didn't have the heart to remove it for the playlist. It's clearly an affectionate portrait, though I've always wondered where exactly it came from - Dylan hadn't previously expressed any public interest in comedians more generally or this comedian in particular; perhaps it was simply a sense of shared persecution by critics. The melody is also quite pretty, though the singer claimed to have written the song in just a few minutes.

You Changed My Life (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
The cascading drums of this song make it one of my favorites from the Shot of Love sessions, even if it perhaps doesn't measure up to the album's best tracks. The chorus is also very strong, though I wish that Errol Flynn hadn't made an appearance at the song's end! A new outtake appeared on Trouble No More, and it lacked both the propulsion of the version from Dylan's earlier Bootleg Series and the conciseness of the other version's chorus; on this alternative take, the title line was sung twice with a slightly unpleasant melodic diversion in the penultimate recitation. Heylin's Still On The Road suggests that many lyrical variants exist, but that none aside from the final published lyric was ever recorded.

Watered-Down Love (Shot of Love)
"Watered-Down Love" is a pleasant R&B track, quite different from the style of music that Bob Dylan had been recording for much of the 1970s. Its final verse was pruned in the course of managing Shot of Love's run time, and the song is slightly less compelling for its absence, but the only officially published outtake doesn't quite measure up to the song's performance on its album version. When played live, the song consistently retained this additional verse, so it must have been an unhappy decision to cut it for the final record.

Angelina (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful song, and one of the two great tragedies of the record - it was cut, along with "Caribbean Wind," just prior to the final sequencing. Unlike "Caribbean Wind," though, "Angelina" was effectively captured on tape. It was evidently recorded in several arrangements, both a quiet version and more bombastic rendition, but only the gentler arrangement has so far been published. One wonders how it might have matured on-stage, but Bob Dylan evidently wrote it, recorded it, and never looked back.

The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (Shot of Love)
"The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar" has been a part of the official album sequence since 1985, but it did not originally appear on the record's sequence. It's hard to imagine a version of Shot of Love that lacks this song, as it really holds together the album along with heavy-hitters "Shot of Love" and "Every Grain of Sand," but it has quite a bit more in common with cut tracks "Angelina" and "Caribbean Wind" than with the final album's opener and closer. Like the two songs surrounding it on this playlist, it depicts a world gone wrong both in the broad strokes - "killing nuns and soldiers" like "pieces of men marching, trying to take heaven by force - and in the narrator's personal relationships. The album ends up a significantly more spiritually preoccupied, apocalyptic document when these tracks are included. An outtake of "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar" was included on Trouble No More, but it's not quite as tight and electric as the one selected for publication as the B-side of "Heart of Mine" in 1981; unfortunately, the single version lacks the odd shift to an alternative time signature and repetition of the phrase "West of the Jordan," but one wonders if it might still exist past the fadeout.

Caribbean Wind (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
After "Every Grain of Sand," "Caribbean Wind" is my favorite track from the Shot of Love sessions. It has so much content in each of its lyrical variations, but all come down to a combination of the breakdown in established social order dovetailing with the narrator's ambivalence towards a potential romantic affair. It builds on the complexity of interpersonal relationships from earlier compositions like "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Simple Twist of Fate," while also intertwining this subject with larger-scale social and spiritual concerns. Unfortunately, Dylan never quite seems to have succeeded in capturing the breadth of the song in the studio; two radically different takes have been published - a 1981 rendition on Biograph and a 1980 rendition on Trouble No More - but neither manages to approach the majesty of the circulating live performance or, indeed, what the singer must have had in mind. His comments on the song in the liner notes of Biograph suggest that the song came to him in a dream while sailing in the Caribbean, but that once he was done recording it, he no longer remembered what it was supposed to be about. This ambiguity likely accounts for the dramatic variations in lyrics, both in the verses and chorus, but that mystery only seems to contribute to the song's stature as one of Bob Dylan's greatest compositions.

Dead Man, Dead Man (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
As released on Shot of Love, "Dead Man, Dead Man" feels like something of a trifling thing. It's too short and lacks the reggae punch that the song would receive in concerts. The version published on Trouble No More in 2017, however, is a towering song. The additional lyrics, which take on even more menace when one remembers that the singer claims to have composed the song while looking in a mirror, serve to underline the apparent moral bankruptcy of the song's subject. It also features one of Dylan's most haunting harmonica solos as the instrument seems to have been recorded through some kind of thick distortion. The song is much longer in this guise, but worth every moment.

In The Summertime (Shot of Love)
"In The Summertime" is a brief song, but no less significant for its brevity. It depicts a lost love with one of the best phrases the singer had written to describe this common state of affairs - "I was in your presence for an hour or so/or was it a day? I truly don't know." He went on to play around with meter throughout the track, and accentuated it with a middling harmonica performance. Still, the hasty fade and apparent unrehearsed quality of the harmonica solo can't dim what is, at its core, a deeply affectionate ballad.

Trouble (Shot of Love)
Like "in The Summertime," "Trouble" feels like a song that fades just a bit too quickly - unlike "In The Summertime," though, one does not get the impression that the song had enough thematic heft to carry it any further. What remains is a compelling, bluesy riff played under images that expound upon the more harrowing depictions of world affairs offered in "Shot of Love," "Angelina," "Caribbean Wind," and "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar." This song lacks their preoccupation with more personal concerns, so its inherently less effective, but it does serve to sum up one of the album's key themes ahead of the final track. It was extensively rehearsed for the 1981 tour, and later a 1986 tour, but would not actually appear in concert until 1989.

Every Grain of Sand (Shot of Love)
This is Bob Dylan's best song from the Shot of Love period, and indeed one of the strongest compositions in his 50+ year career. While many of his spiritual writings emphasize the debauchery of human society, or the narrator's appreciation for having been lifted from a morally flawed state, "Every Grain of Sand" confronts the daily lived experience of being aware of the immorality in which one can partake, recalling earlier experiences of one's own human weakness, but bearing that all with dignity and moving towards a more fulfilling existence. The song was written in 1980 and two studio recordings from Fall 1980 have been published - the guitar-oriented rehearsal on Trouble No More and the piano-based duet on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 - but neither succeed in achieving the careful balancing act of tension and elegance that are presented on the album recording. Shockingly, the song was almost not recorded for Shot of Love in 1981, and only appeared because of a band member's reminder to Dylan of the song's existence; without this lucky coincidence, "Every Grain of Sand" may well have disappeared along with other 1980 compositions like "Making a Liar Out of Me" and "Yonder Comes Sin."

Disc Two

Shot of Love (July 25, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Though it's very slightly marred by some recording issues, the Avignon performance of "Shot of Love" remains the song's definitive on-stage reading. Its delightful introduction is sadly a casualty of tightening up the run-time on Trouble No More. Still, nothing can detract from this fiery rendition that gets our live playlist off on the right foot. "Shot of Love" was one of the longest-played songs from this record in Bob Dylan's live setlists, making appearances on tours in 1981, 1986, 1987, and 1989.

Heart of Mine (November 10, 1981 - Side Tracks)
"Heart of Mine" was more effectively captured in the studio than it would tend to be played live - I suspect due to its rather unique time signature and piano/guitar interplay - but the versions from Fall 1981 were universally excellent. Sony/Columbia seems to have thought the same, as it was the first performance from Bob Dylan's 1981 tour released on an official recording (Biograph in 1985). No other version has been published so far, but a remastered version of that New Orleans recording was re-released on Side Tracks in the 2010s.

Thief on the Cross (November 10, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Since "Property of Jesus" has never been performed live, I have filled in the gap here with a song never recorded in the studio - "Thief of the Cross." This comes from the same show as the preceding "Heart of Mine," but sounds radically different. Dylan makes great use of the two drummers he had playing at concerts that Autumn, and spits out a spirited if not entirely clear vocal performance. It seems that the song is about either Jesus or one of the two criminals crucified alongside him, though there are oblique references to Iran and Mexico as well. It's a shame this track never made it into the recording studio, though I'm grateful that such an excellent live recording was captured for posterity.

Lenny Bruce (June 27, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Paul Williams did not care for this song's arrangement on the 1981 tours, but I think it works at least as well as its studio incarnation. The backing vocals add a charming, wistful vibe to the performance, and carry it to a satisfying conclusion.

Watered Down Love (June 12, 1981 - Trouble No More)
I'm not convinced that either of the recordings of this song included on Trouble No More are as effective as other circulating live versions - particularly the one recorded at New Orleans on November 10 - but both are themselves fairly interesting. The one on Disc Two of the collection captures the song at one of its earliest appearances, and the singer is still playing around with melodic variations. It also preserves the lost verse, which is absent from the truncated studio take released on Shot of Love.

The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (November 13, 1980 - Trouble No More)
While the excellent version of this song with Michael Bloomfield on guitar was released on From His Head to His Heart to His Hands a few years ago, I think the vocals and audio mix are actually a bit superior on the performance from November 13, 1980. If you disagree with that assessment, I'd encourage you to download the Bloomfield version and replace my choice on this playlist! Both are great, so it wouldn't be any serious loss. In any case, this is one of the more interesting variations from a studio incarnation, as about 50% of the lyrics - including the chorus - are entirely different from the song that Bob Dylan would record the following Spring. The tempo is also slower, which has an effect on the overall theme of the song; the studio version is more concerned with overarching social ills, reflected in the apocalyptic alteration to its chorus, and its urgent tempo complements that evolution.

Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody (December 2, 1980 - Trouble No More)
The original arrangement and lyrics for "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody" predate other songs that made it onto Shot of Love, but it was rewritten and rearranged for the same sessions that resulted in "Caribbean Wind," "Every Grain of Sand" and "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar." Its new lyrics, inasmuch as they can be discerned, seem to be of a piece with those other songs as well - like them, it appears to blend spiritual concerns with the application of religious principles in the physical, temporal world, especially with regard to romantic relationships.

Dead Man, Dead Man (June 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Three live performances of "Dead Man, Dead Man" have been published by Sony/Columbia at this point, though only two are easily accessible on CD. The one recorded on November 10, 1981 was originally published as a B-side to "Everything is Broken" in 1989, and has since been re-released most notably on Live 1961-2000 - Thirty-nine years of great concert performances, an album published to promote Bob Dylan's 2001 Tour of Japan, and RARE TRACKS FROM THE VAULTS, an iTunes-only playlist from the 2000s. Happily, the more accessible versions on Trouble No More are both great, though I give the edge to the strange drum-heavy arrangement from Disc Two. If you prefer the New Orleans performance, and have managed to track down a copy, it wouldn't be a bad idea to throw it on this DIY Playlist rather than the one I've selected.

In The Summertime (October 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
"In The Summertime" is a beautiful song, but it flourished more completely on-stage than on Shot of Love. It's great luck, then, that a performance from the Fall 1981 tour made it onto Trouble No More. A harmonica solo was abandoned when the song appeared on the road, but it was replaced with a lovely guitar interlude by Fred Tackett. The vocals on Trouble No More are powerful and rich, yet somehow still tender. The recording features some minor distortion, but nothing that can't be ignored in favor of appreciating this magical performance.

Caribbean Wind (November 12, 1980 - Trouble No More)
While it never quite came together in the studio, Bob Dylan's only live performance of "Caribbean Wind" managed to reveal the song at the height of its power. Some lyrics seem a touch garbled, but the band gamely plays an apparently unrehearsed song perfectly. The chorus is significantly more geographically ambitious than any of the published or bootlegged studio takes; the singer refers to "Tokyo," "the British Isles," "Mexico," and his own backyard, among others (not all are perfectly audible). Most importantly, the arrangement is sweeping and the singer matches it was a vocal intensity befitting the subject matter. Thank goodness it's finally been officially released in a beautifully recorded version on Trouble No More, though we'll sadly have to be content with a version missing the surprisingly moving spoken introduction. Dylan described a twelve string guitar, using that as a jumping-off point to discuss Leadbelly and that singer's own struggles with artistic evolution; - tellingly, he refers to some people telling Leadbelly to play his old songs and criticizing him for having changed, but Leadbelly was "still the same man." As one last striking detail about this song, we would never have had a live rendition at all if not for author Paul Williams, who greeted Dylan backstage at an earlier show in Fall 1980 and looked over his newly written compositions; Williams immediately noticed the quality of "Caribbean Wind" and requested that it be played at a future show. It's incredible how close we came to never even being aware of this musical masterpiece!

Every Grain of Sand (November 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Bob Dylan only played "Every Grain of Sand" once on stage before 1984, when it received a dramatic rearrangement as a heavy rock ballad, and that occurred on the final stop of his 1981 American Tour. The circulating recording was fairly muffled, and suggested that this rendition was somewhat uninspired. The newly released recording on Trouble No More, however, suggests that this assessment was premature - while the song is not quite as dramatic as it was on Shot of Love, this more subdued version is equally successful in its own right.

City of Gold (November 22, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Finally, we close the playlist with a third song that seems never to have been attempted in a studio setting. "City of Gold" is as perfect a closer as one could imagine, and it played that role at a number of shows in Fall 1980. Though it is more explicitly concerned with spiritual matters than some contemporary compositions, it fits in well as a reminder of what the singer believed his goal to be in 1980 and 1981 - revealing to his audiences the spiritual awakening that he had gone through in 1979, and trying to make that message relevant through its intersection with the physical world.

There are admittedly a few arguments that folks could make against my selections here - most notably, I skipped over the two circulating outtakes of "Every Grain of Sand" in favor of the final studio cut. I'm not convinced that Dylan had quite succeeded in finding the right key for the song in 1980, and I find the outtakes fairly shrill and distracting from the song's peaceful message. I also omitted "Need A Woman" and "Don't Ever Take Yourself Away," both published Shot of Love studio outtakes, because I don't think they are very good songs. With regard to the live disc, "Jesus Is The One" is absent from this collection, but that's primarily because I couldn't find a place for it on the live playlist and thought it fairly trifling anyway; it's a great performance piece to liven up a concert, but nothing with the heft of other songs written and recorded by the singer during this period. "Cover Down, Pray Through" is also absent, as I thought that it matched Saved in terms of its lyrical content and arrangement - it was also never played after the Spring 1980 shows, so it doesn't really match the chronological era documented by this playlist.

Here are the links to all relevant albums to buy on Amazon (of course you could also assemble it from CDs purchased at your preferred small business):

The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3
The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More
Shot of Love (The Complete Album Collection - 1980s)
Side Tracks

I hope you like the playlist, and keep looking forward to the revised versions of my gospel-era Thousand Highways compilations, which should be published before the end of the year! Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS